Five essential WordPress plugins

by | Jan 11, 2016 | Blog | 0 comments

We do a lot with WordPress. This site runs on it and the ubiquitous CMS powers many of our client’s sites, landing pages, and event portals.

There are tens of thousands of WordPress plugins available (42,314 on WordPress.org as of 1/11/2016) that do almost anything imaginable: from site speed enhancers to search engine optimization, images galleries to integrations.

Since I already covered WordPress caching and improving your WordPress website speed, here are a list of my five favorite plugins outside the performance boosters:

1. ORBISIUS CHILD THEME CREATOR

Create Child Themes quickly and easily from any theme that you have currently installed on your site/blog.

So you’ve got a fancy new theme for your WordPress website. It’s all setup but you need to customize some of the bits and pieces…but the last thing you want to do with a complex theme is break it. The most important step to avoid messing up the underlying theme is to create a “child theme.”

A child theme allows you to make edits to the actual theme files, but you make the edits within the child theme, thus protecting the underlying “parent” theme from breaking. Child themes mean you can freely edit and modify the theme but safely revert back to the parent theme if anything gets screwed up.

Another benefit to child themes is the continuing ability to upgrade the parent theme. When the creator of your theme introduces bug fixes and upgrades, you want to be able to deploy them on your site. But if you’ve edited the primary “parent theme” and then upgrade the theme: poof! Your edits are gone.

But with a child theme you can keep the parent theme up-to-date while maintaining any tweaks you’ve made.

 

2. REDIRECTION

Redirection is a WordPress plugin to manage 301 redirections and keep track of 404 errors without requiring knowledge of Apache .htaccess files.

This simple plugin unlocks very useful functionality for customizing URLs and redirects.

Here’s a great example: our theme automatically generates breadcrumbs on portfolio pages. Those breadcrumbs contain dynamically-generated pages for portfolio categories. There is no way to customize how those portfolio category pages look.

So instead of trying to dig really deep and overhaul the pages, I just created separate pages for each portfolio category, and then used the Reidrection plugin to send any request for those dynamic pages to static pages I created instead. Now I have total control over how these pages look.

 

3. FACEBOOK OPEN GRAPH, GOOGLE+ AND TWITTER CARD TAGS

Inserts Facebook Open Graph, Google+/Schema.org, Twitter and other Meta Tags into your WordPress Website for more efficient sharing results.

You know when you insert a link into Facebook and it contains a nicely sized image and page summary? This plugin adds those tags into your pages and posts so when your content is linked in Facebook, the right images and text shows up.

 

4. GOOGLE XML SITEMAPS

This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines to better index your blog.

Google Webmaster Tools is a terrific resource for tweaking your site’s SEO. One of the cornerstones of good SEO is a proper sitemap. This plugin makes short work of your sitemap and handles submission to the search engines.

 

5. TIE: VAULTPRESS AND BACKUP BUDDY

Vaultpress:

VaultPress is a subscription service offering realtime backup, automated security scanning, and support from WordPress experts.

Backup Buddy:

The best way to back up (and move) a WordPress site.

These are two incredibly powerful tools for backing up and restoring your WordPress website. Backup Buddy has a ton of options, but Vaultpress keeps ongoing automatic backups in the background, and is made by Automattic, the creators of WordPress, so that adds a lot of credibility.

Both plugins have yielded successful results for backup and migration of WordPress sites. I will sometimes use them in conjunction for the best of both worlds.

These two plugins are for-pay: Vaultpress is $5-$29/mo depending on options. Backup Buddy is $80-$150/year ($7.70-$12.5/mo) or $297 for a lifetime subscription.

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